NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Tick-borne illness cases in the United States are up 25% since 2011, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a rare disease now spreading in the U.S. Northeast.
The CDC says cases of babesiosis, which can cause illness ranging from asymptomatic to severe, have increased significantly in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
The tick-borne disease, which is growing in cases but still rare, is transmitted from the bites of black-legged ticks.
Babesiosis infections can be asymptomatic or cause mild to severe illnesses that can be fatal. Symptoms, which can last for several weeks, typically show up between one and four weeks after a bite. The most common symptoms include fever, chills, sweating, fatigue, and myalgias. They also include hepatosplenomegaly, or an enlarged liver, and hemolytic anemia, a disorder that causes red blood cells to be destroyed faster than they can be created.
Yale scientist Goudarz Molaei said one of the factors that could be causing the increase in tick-borne diseases could be shorter winters.
“Understandably because of climate change and other environmental conditions we are seeing increases in tick abundance and tick activity,” Molaei said.
Molaei said that, in Connecticut, for example, one in two ticks on average is infected with at least one disease agent.
“We have to be aware of the areas that might be infested with ticks, so wooded areas, tall grasses areas, try to avoid those areas at any costs,” he said.
Molaei says if you have no other choice, you’ll have to consistently perform a tick check on yourself and your pets, as they can often bring home ticks with them.
The CDC is urging anyone spending extended time outdoors to use tick repellents and wear long sleeve shirts and pants if they can.
If you are bitten by a tick, the CDC recommends the following:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap
- Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. If you would like to bring the tick to your healthcare provider for identification, put it in rubbing alcohol or place it in a sealed